Though it's true about short stories, novels in particular hold a part of your heart and soul in them. You bleed, sweat, and cry into the pages and the characters on them. Besides the fact they take far longer to write, and more planning, outlining, plotting, developing and world building—they have an effect on you.
It's the characters that affect you. They take control and lead your story on a different path, sometimes ignoring what you're trying to make them do. Also, they can hate you. My first book is set in Reconstruction-era Louisiana. The Klan was rampant down there, and I think my favorite character was the one I hated most. I loved him, because I hated everything he stood for, said, and thought (even I had a little hand in his villainy!).
But why did I hate him? He was a horrible, murderous thug in the Klan and went against everything I personally believe. I had such fun writing him for that very reason!
Back to short stories. If I had to write this guy for ten to twenty pages, he'd be over my shoulder for at max two to three days. With a novel I had this monstrous bigot in my head for five years (first books always take longer, and hey I wasn't nearly as focused as I am now!). Five years to have a cast of five main characters, all separate with separate motivations, beliefs and personalities is a lot to maintain. Kinda. Not really since they would do what they wanted.
I wrote another short story, which I'm surprised hasn't sold, but have realized why it probably won't. It's twenty pages, and though I knew the main character, how he thought, felt, his goal, and personality—he was a relative guest in my head. He arrived on a friday afternoon, and was gone by Sunday evening. Took me three days to write his story, compared to the five years with the cast of Book #1.
My second book is finished and out to a couple agents. It took me WAY less time to finish it, as should be expected. I'll say it took seven to eight months—mind you this was during a class at Harvard (which was INSANE) and a killer commute.
This book was much easier to write since I'm a lot more familiar with medieval fantasy than Civil War history (which now I think I know a fair amount. Not a by expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I know a little something something!).
Again, seven or eight months is a lot shorter than five years, but those characters are still with me. I had such fun writing them, because the characters in the "group" were a common fantasy trope on the flip side (all my tropes need to be twisted—I hate clichés!).
This group involves three characters forced together to do something (the trope), become reluctant "friends (trope) and then conflict with each other while trying to accomplish their own goals....to the point of trying to kill one another at certain times (trope flipped!).
Another funny trope (I think) is that there's the backwater farm boy "destined for greatness" and....that's all I'll say since this will hopefully sell.
I forgot to add this snippet of info. Alas! My agent was forced to step back due to his major health issues. Though it's a bummer, I only hope he gets better!
I started that ever so daunting task of querying again. Having an agent will probably give me a good boost in acquiring another one.
The publishing industry is achingly slow, so the best thing to deal with the wait is to keep writing!
I'm already outlining my third book (the second in a planned trilogy starting with my second book. Sounds confusing right?). However, I'll probably hold actually writing the second installment in case the first one does not sell. If the first in the trilogy doesn't sell, why would the second?
Of course, I could make the second book a stand-alone, but then I would have refocus on introducing all the characters, which were explored in the first one. I might do that, to be honest.
However, I also love writing short stories. This may sound arrogant or stupid or both, but I find writing short stories easy. I wrote the one I just sold in under two hours, not counting the editing afterwards.
I'll post later about why and how short stories come more naturally to me.
So, since one of my short stories will be published soon, I decided to shamelessly promote it. Though, I can't really say anything about it...besides it being a Lovecraftian Horror story. Sold it to a great small press, Innsmouth Free Press...they print Lovecraftian stories????
For those of you who don't know, the press takes its name from H.P. Lovecraft's novella, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." It's actually a great story that has even been made into a movie. Stuart Gordan directed the film, Dagon. Gordon actually has a deep fondness for Lovecraft. He directed "From Beyond" which was another awesome Lovecraft story and Re-animator. He also directed the episode of Masters of Horror called, Dreams in the Witch-House. Good episode though I felt he strayed too much from the original story.
Anyway, nearly all Lovecraftt's stories involve what's called, Cosmic Indifference. In medieval times man thought the Earth was the center of the universe and thus everything revolved around us. WE were kind go a big deal. Cosmic Indifference is the exact opposite. The human race is an ant on the floor of a universe filled with gods, demons, and creatures so vast and great they barely pay attention to us. Do we pay attention to ants on a regular basis? No.
So, at the end of almost every Lovecraft story...the protagonists lose. They go insane, die, or left not "insane" but emotionally shattered to the point that they are a shell of a person. And people love this! There are whole books, philosophies, and debates about Cosmic Indifference and the "mythos" H.P. built.
I say, "mythos" because in actuality Lovecraft never really intended to set down a defined multiverse. Like the great writer he was, he winged it. He didn't follow any rules, he just wrote a specific story and used the same names and/or concepts. Basically, he didn't want to constrain himself to follow anything but his own imagination.
And that's the point of this post (or now it forms the point)...don't constrain your imagination. Write whatever you desire.